In a traditional sense, the countries of Latin America have had access to the light of the gospel for decades, yet thousands still live in the dark, remaining “unchanged” in their lifestyles. According to December 2003 reports by the World Health Organization, ninety million children in the region live in poverty, and about two million people are infected with HIV/AIDS. A high divorce rate and numbers of unmarried couples living together also demonstrate the need for Latin American Christians to daily live out their faith.
According to the United Nations Human Settlements Program (http://www.unhabitat.org/), more than forty percent of the urban population of Latin America and the Caribbean live in the region’s fifty cities that exceed one million people. Into this demographic climate, Trans World Radio (TWR, http://www.twr.org/) introduced its strategic “City Lights” project, a campaign to reach fifty spiritually-needy Latin American cities in the next several years. Through this project, TWR aims to connect mission-minded churches and individuals in the United States with Latin American churches and radio stations in cities like Bogotá (Colombia), La Paz (Bolivia) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). By turning on the light of the gospel, TWR aims to bring about commitments to Christ that will result in lifestyle changes for millions of Latino men, women, youth and children.
|Some of Trans World Radio's City Lights programming:
Pedrito El Pulpo (Little Peter the Octopus), weekly fifteen-minute for children
Sabio y Prudente (Wise and Prudent), daily fifteen-minute for children
Mujeres de Esperanza (Women of Hope), weekly thirty-minute for women
Cosas de Nosotras (Our Things), weekly fifteen-minute for women
Tierra Firme (Solid Ground), weekly thirty-minute; contemporary and societal issues in light of Scripture
Integración Familia (Rebuilding the Family), daily fifteen-minute for families
Entre Jóvenes (Just Between Us Teens), weekly thirty-minute for youth
TWR’s eight Latin American partners are already producing quality original programs that are used in the City Lights project (see sidebar). These offices also distribute broadcasts to a network of stations and link the project to appropriate ministries or missionaries already working in a particular city. Currently, TWR partners with more than five hundred stations throughout Latin America.
City Spotlight: Maracaibo, Venezuela
Maracaibo is the second most important city in Venezuela in terms of its economy and demographics. But poverty is high in this area (forty-five percent), and more than seventy percent of the working population is located in a sector that presents serious urban problems. This results in even more poverty that, in turn, directly affects the national economic crisis.
TWR-Venezuela director Annabel Torrealba believes that TWR’s programs touch lives in this populous Venezuelan city and throughout the nation. She and her team take their popular children’s broadcast Pedrito el Pulpo to thousands of young listeners who want to see the puppets impersonate their favorite radio characters.
Since 2003, Torrealba says her team has made personal contact with about twenty-seven thousand children via these Pedrito el Pulpo rallies. More than two thousand have committed their lives to Christ. “The impact on children, youth and adults has been tremendous,” emphasizes Torrealba. “More than ever, doors are opening for the gospel to reach into difficult places.”
In addition, children who attend the rallies receive kits containing school supplies, a Pedrito el Pulpo-illustrated story based on biblical principles and a CD with children’s music and dramas. So far, more than one thousand of these kits have been donated to children with the purpose of motivating them to continue their studies despite their nation’s economic struggles.
City Spotlight: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo, like other large cities, is plagued by corruption, violence, human trafficking and sexual immorality. Moreover, the syncretizing of different religious beliefs, including those of New Age and postmodernism, leave little room for God in the lives of this island nation’s people.
“This panorama makes it relevant and urgent to continue our broadcasts of the transforming message of Jesus Christ,” says Georgina Thompson, director of TWR-Dominican Republic. She notes that Bible correspondence courses and literature are also offered on the broadcasts. “The programs are setting in motion a new culture in family relations,” Thompson adds. “The most abundant response is reflected in the calls, emails and visits to the IMAFA Institute, a center where the producers of the Integración Familia broadcast offer professional services. This has given them the opportunity to lead people to Christ and to equip them to face their family problems.”
Piero, a listener to the program, said, “I listen to Radio Trans Mundial (TWR) every day. Today the subject related to conflicts of couples. I have a friend who has this type of problem, and I needed a way of guiding him. Your program helped me have the method of how to approach it. I am very thankful to you.”
Thompson’s team produces three of the City Lights programs: Integración Familiar, Cosas de Nosotras and Entre Jóvenes. These are also aired over TWR’s high-powered AM facility on Bonaire.
City Spotlight: Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is home to nearly two million people, many of whom struggle to provide for themselves and their families on a daily basis. According to director of TWR-Uruguay Esteban Larrosa, “In 2003, the incidence of poverty in urban homes reached twenty-one percent. Proportionally, poverty affects more children than adults. The challenge is not to allow more time for the children of poverty today to turn into the parents of poverty tomorrow.”
What better way to ensure a brighter future for the next generation than by introducing their mothers to Christ? Since radio is not hindered by geography, religious barriers or cultural traditions, it is the ideal method to reach Spanish-speaking women where they are across Latin America. For more than five years, Mujeres de Esperanza, the Spanish version of TWR’s popular women’s program, Women of Hope, has been airing from Uruguay and Bonaire. An integral part of TWR’s Project Hannah and City Lights ministries, the broadcast currently airs in more than twenty-one Spanish-speaking countries worldwide.
Many women have testified that they identify with the themes featured on Mujeres de Esperanz. Issues include health, relationships and spiritual matters.
“It was one of those winter nights with rain, cold and wind, and I was feeling abandoned,” wrote a Uruguayan woman to the program’s producers. “With tremendous pain in my heart, I cried out for some comfort. I was alone and without work, feeling the most miserable of all women. I turned on the radio to listen to music and forget my burden for a while, and I heard, by chance, someone talking to me personally. On your program, you were telling me all that I was feeling. Not only did I forget my burdens, but also I became acquainted with Christ. I saw that all my problems were because of my sin and my forgetting God. From then on, you have been my best company. I go to church, but I never stop listening to your programs.”
City Spotlight: Bogotá, Colombia
God is also using the City Lights broadcasts to touch lives in Colombia, where terrorism, drugs, occultism, corruption, unemployment and poverty have prevailed for years.
TWR-Colombia’s director reports that his team has received positive feedback about the simplicity with which the word of God is shared on TWR’s programs, and how listeners appreciate being able to obtain current information about Christianity. TWR broadcasts five programs over radio station Nuevo Continente in the capital of Bogotá. But the programs reach beyond Bogotá, since Nuevo Continente has another station in Medellín. In all, TWR distributes programming to some sixteen stations throughout Colombia, directing new listener contacts to local churches and encouraging believers to continue being faithful to the Lord in their church by supporting its ministry.
Programs from the City Lights’ menu of programs are also being supplied to six local stations in the jungle region in order to reach the indigenous tribes. One of these key stations has been provided with fourteen solar panels that permit the station to be on the air all day long instead of just two hours when electricity is provided by the local village generator.
TWR colleagues in Colombia reported the testimony of a man who visited their office. The man, a Colombian pilot, was kidnapped by guerrilla forces and, while in captivity, was given a New Testament and transistor radio by one of his captors. Early one morning, the pilot found the signal of Radio Nuevo Continente. After tuning in to TWR’s programs for several days, he committed his life to Christ. Within a few months, he gained his freedom, and today he and his family are faithfully attending church.
TWR-Colombia is also seeking opportunities to assist Radio Nuevo Continente in working with street children in Bogotá, hoping to minister effectively, despite governmental restrictions, to these often forgotten children and to ultimately introduce them to Christ.